eNewsletter ˇ 11/09/2010  Vol. 7-03

My Experience with Mentoring
and Role Models in Nursing

Angela Adjetey, RN, MPH, MA, FAACM

Graduate Student at Vanderbilt University,
School of Nursing, MSN, Health Systems Management

Clinical Nurse Specialist Women's Oncology Unit,
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Special Author for DiversityNursing.com

I recently attended a conference where the topic of mentoring aspiring nurse leaders was discussed.  The message of the presentation was that it is personally and professionally important to have both mentors and role models for all aspects of life. I realized I had successfully incorporated excellent mentors and role models into my professional development as well as my growth as a person. Choosing a mentor has always been part of my professional career plan.   Marilyn K. Bedell (2005), states that nurses need guidance and help to grow and to develop new cognitive, clinical, and technical skills. She noted that many nurses in leadership positions are concerned about the development of novice nurses and those in the process of making career transitions. She emphasized it is critical for nurses in leadership positions to learn about mentoring and its use as a tool to develop the next generation of nurse leaders.

Mentoring is a science and an art. Through mentoring nurses are guided, taught, and influenced in their chosen profession. It is a relationship between a novice and an experienced professional. The experienced professional teaches professional survival skills and methods through guidance, counseling, and critiquing the novice, while encouraging specialization and advancement in the profession.   The role of a mentor is to develop the unique abilities of the protégé. The mentor helps the protégé feel safe and comfortable while asking questions, seeking advice, or talking through a situation.  Role modeling as opposed to mentorship is often a one-way relationship. There is no commitment from the role model to guide and counsel. It tends to be a passive process in which a person watches and then copies the model. Role modeling relies on imitation and does not encourage the development of the unique qualities of the individual. No formal discussions occur to verify why the role model performed a certain way in a specific situation (Bedell, 2005).

My first experience with role modeling and mentoring occurred when I was a young girl. My parents helped 2 missionaries run a clinic in Ghana, West Africa. When I grew up, I wanted to be like my mother and the 2 ladies who provided care at this clinic. My first encounter with mentoring was in 1996. I attended a meeting of the Black Nurses Association of Charlottesville, Virginia, a chapter of the National Black Nurses Association.  I was invited by David Simmons, RN, MSN, who nurtured me as a student nurse and showed me the impact a nurse leader can have on a person.  I wanted to be like him and was motivated to develop the skills he demonstrated.  He showed me all the characteristics I consider helpful throughout my career.  His desire to help me was evident. He demonstrated effective coaching, provided me with advice, and demonstrated how networking can improve my nursing and leadership skills.

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